One of the greatest 1920s natural gas fields in the world also produced helium.


A small museum in western Kansas staffed by volunteers sits above a giant natural gas field.


In far southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton opened on May 16, 1961. It educates visitors about one of the largest natural gas fields in North America.


Natural Gas Museum welcome sign

Although natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, the vast potential of the Hugoton-Panhandle field was not truly known until a 1927 well about 2,600 feet below the surface southwest of Hugoton.

Every year Hugoton – the state’s “natural gas capital” – hosts as an annual “Gas Capital Car Show & Rod Run” that takes place on the fourth Saturday in August.

Natural Gas Museum map

In southwestern Kansas, the Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum in Hugoton is above a giant natural gas producing area (in red) that extends 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles.

The community’s museum, founded by Gladys Renfro, curator, and a few dedicated volunteers, serves “as a memento of the Hugoton gas field and the progressive development of Stevens County.”

Natural Gas Museum outdoor exhibits

The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum includes the Santa Fe Train Depot in Hugoton, Kansas.

The 14-county Kansas gas field, part of a larger group extending 8,500 square miles into the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, has produced more than 29 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, noted the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) in 2003.

About 11,000 wells produce both oil and gas in the Kansas portion of the Hugoton area – and thousands of miles of pipeline carry Hugoton gas throughout the United States. 

Hugoton natural gas fields also became a major source of helium, thanks to a University of  Kansas professor who in 1905 discovered helium could be extracted from natural gas (learn more in Gas, Oil and Developing Company).

“Hugoton production is a major source of natural gas and oil for the state and the nation,” KGS explained, adding that the economic value produced in 14 counties of southwest Kansas exceeds 50 percent of all gas and oil produced in the state. “The major gas fields of this area have produced enough gas to supply every household in Kansas for 364 years.”

Natural Gas Museum granite marker

“Hugoton-Panhandle gas provides the world’s largest source of helium from which the U.S. Government has drawn a 40 year supply stockpile and spacecraft and other industries obtain current needs,” notes a monument in Guymon, Oklahoma.

Although natural gas had been discovered as early as 1922, near Liberal, Kansas, that well did not produce oil – so it was considered of little value and remained unused for several years, noted KGS. “In 1927, gas was discovered at the Independent Oil and Gas Company’s Crawford No. 1, about 2,600 feet below the surface southwest of Hugoton,” KGS added. In 1929, Argus Pipe Line Company started construction of a pipeline to furnish gas to Dodge City.

Beginning in the 1930s, Phillips Petroleum Company produced Hugoton natural gas from 3,000 feet deep in Texas County, Oklahoma.

“This field with subsequent deeper discoveries of oil and gas has provided landowners with royalty revenue and cheap fuel,” reports an historical marker in a Guymon, Oklahoma, park. “There are nearly 8,000 producing oil or gas wells in Texas County today,” the historic marker notes. “For 75 years, the county has been one of the largest sources of revenue for the state of Oklahoma through taxes on oil and gas production.”


The Stevens County Gas & Historical Museum, 905 S. Adams Street in Hugoton, today includes early oil patch equipment, restored buildings – including an historic Santa Fe Hugoton Train Depot – an 1887 school house and home, a grocery store, and a barber shop. A natural gas well drilled in 1945 is still producing at the museum.

A 2004 Hugoton Asset Management Project brought together KGS and eight industry partners in the Hugoton field – to build a “knowledge and technical base required for intelligent stewardship, identification of new opportunities, and continued improvement in recovery strategies.”

Natural gas shale discoveries (and advanced production technologies) have overtaken the Hugoton’s once dominant role. In 2009, the Hugoton gas area produced 328 billion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the ninth largest source of gas in America. Natural gas shale discoveries in the Fayetteville, Arkansas, region (2004) and Haynesville, Louisiana, region (2008) have estimated production volumes of 517 billion cubic feet and 204 billion cubic feet respectively.


The American Oil & Gas Historical Society preserves U.S. petroleum history. Become an AOGHS supporting member and help maintain this energy education website and expand historical research. For more information, contact © 2020 Bruce A. Wells.

Citation Information – Article Title: “Natural Gas Museum” Author: Editors. Website Name: American Oil & Gas Historical Society. URL: Last Updated: May 11, 2020. Original Published Date: May 12, 2013.


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